Oh dear. The Saachti Gallery has covered up some paintings after complaints that they are blasphemous.
The gallery, founded by the advertising magnate Charles Saatchi, rejected calls from some visitors to remove the paintings, arguing it was up to visitors to come to their own conclusions on the meaning of the art. However, in response to the complaints, SKU suggested as a compromise the works should remain on the gallery wall but be covered up with sheets.
“It seemed a respectful solution that enables a debate about freedom of expression versus the perceived right not to be offended,” he said in a statement to the Sunday Times.
I’ll tell you what’s offensive — capitulating to censorious complaints, and then trying to dampen the impact of your decision by saying that it ‘enables a debate about freedom of expression.’ Continue reading “Censorship and Capitulation at the Saachti Gallery”
At a museum in Haifa, Israel, a sculpture called McJesus has been removed from display.
The name of piece by Jani Leinonen tells you exactly what it looks like and also gives heavy clues as to why it is controversial: it is the crucifixion of Ronald McDonald.
There have been angry protests against the sculpture by Israeli Christians who consider it offensive and blasphemous. There were threats of fire bombing.
The sculpture brings to mind another crucifixion mash-up, Immersion (Piss Christ) by Andreas Serrano (1987). I also think of The Holy Virgin Mary by Chris Ofili (1996), a picture painted using elephant dung and which features pornographic imagery. Rudi Giuliani, then mayor of New York, called it ‘sick’ when the painting was exhibited there in 1999.
Continue reading “Hey, Haifa! 1999 called and it wants it’s controversy back!”
Kwame Anthony Appiah’s series of Reith Lectures is called ‘Mistaken Identities‘. I really enjoyed listening to the first lecture on ‘Creed‘ and am looking forward to the rest: ‘Country’, ‘Colour’ and ‘Culture’.
In the first lecture, Appiah walked us through the idea that religious practices and doctrines are far more fluid and open to interpretation and change, than the fundamentalists would have us believe. This is a good thing in my view, as it offers hope that illiberal ideas spread under the guise of religion can eventually be abandoned.
But I found myself wondering whether the Internet and digital technology may actually stifle that process. Continue reading “Religious Doctrine and the Internet”
As someone who blogs about freedom of expression I really can’t let the ridiculous burkini controversy in France go by without comment.
Policemen have literally been forcing women to disrobe in public. That is deeply illiberal and wrong.
The arguments for enforcing such a policy do not stand up. Continue reading “Ban the Burkini Ban”
First published on the Huffington Post. After this was published I received some challenging, passionate and extremely useful discussions about it on Facebook. I will add some more thoughts about the video and my article in a separate post.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses are going viral. Social media users have discovered ‘One Man One Woman‘, a short animation about same-sex marriage.
In the clip, a mother tells her daughter, Sophia, that only straight marriage is in Jehovah’s ‘plan’ and that people should abide by those rules if they want to reach paradise. The sequence ends with the little girl revising bible quotes so she can explain to Carrie, her school-friend with two Moms, the true path to paradise. Continue reading “The Homophobic Jehovah’s Witness Video Teaches Us Lessons in Parenting and Pluralism”
The Sun have an alarming – some might say incendiary – headline on its front page today:
1 in 5 Brit Muslims’ sympathy for jihadis
There are two aspects to the report by political editor Tom Newton-Dunn that suggest the figure is unlikely to be accurate. Continue reading “‘1 in 5 Muslims’: How not to do a survey”
Since the hideous Paris attacks last week, a point that has been made over and over again is that ISIS (or, Daesh if you want to annoy them) have a strategy of provocation. Their atrocities are designed to ‘sharpen the contradictions‘ by provoking people in Western countries into acts of racism, and provoking Western governments into acts of war. They hope that by sowing division and actually causing human rights abuses against minorities, more Muslims in these countries will become disaffected and radicalised. Journalist Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed has a good analysis of the strategy: Continue reading “After Paris, maybe we need to slap ISIS about with Matthew’s Gospel?”
Yesterday, the Prime Minister re-announced that his Government had targeted British citizens with missiles fired from RAF drones. Two men are dead. The Sun and others have cheered the news. Others have expressed grave concern. Continue reading “Why we shouldn’t execute Islamic State militants with air-strikes”
Recent weeks have brought us a couple of examples of improbable and extraordinary forgiveness in the face of brutal racism.
Today, the newspapers carry the story of teacher Vincent Uzomah. Of the 14 year old who stabbed him while shouting racists slurs, Mr Uzomah said this:
As a Christian I have forgiven this boy who has inflicted this trauma and pain on me and my family. Our prayer for him is that he will make use of the opportunities and support that will be provided to him to become a changed person who will make a positive contribution to the society.
Continue reading “Amidst Racist Shootings and Stabbings, the Resurrection of Jesus”
Last week I spoke at the launch of Draw The Line Here, the book of cartoons published by English PEN in response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre.
I touched on a few things that I have already noted here: the punctured optimism after the 7/7 bombings, for example. I also explicity noted the fact that, on the day after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, all but two British newspapers carried the same terrible image of the murdered policeman Ahmed Merabet, yet only those same two newspapers (The Guardian and The Independent) felt able to reproduce the relatively benign image of Mohammed on the cover of Charlie Hebdo the following week.
Amazingly, I also encountered a heckler during the speech! He protested that the incredibly crass cartoons that sometimes found their way into the pages of Charlie Hebdo were not worth defending. I unequivocally disagreed.
A recording of my speech is embedded below (and also on SoundCloud). Continue reading “Heckled about Free Speech and Charlie Hebdo”